26. ARAMIS AND HIS THESIS
D'Artagnan had said nothing to Porthos of his wound or of his
procurator's wife. Our Bernais was a prudent lad, however young
he might be. Consequently he had appeared to believe all that
the vainglorious Musketeer had told him, convinced that no
friendship will hold out against a surprised secret. Besides, we
feel always a sort of mental superiority over those whose lives
we know better than they suppose. In his projects of intrigue
for the future, and determined as he was to make his three
friends the instruments of his fortune, d'Artagnan was not sorry
at getting into his grasp beforehand the invisible strings by
which he reckoned upon moving them.
And yet, as he journeyed along, a profound sadness weighed upon
his heart. He thought of that young and pretty Mme. Bonacieux
who was to have paid him the price of his devotedness; but let us
hasten to say that this sadness possessed the young man less from
the regret of the happiness he had missed, than from the fear he
entertained that some serious misfortune had befallen the poor
woman. For himself, he had no doubt she was a victim of the
cardinal's vengeance; and, and as was well known, the vengeance
of his Eminence was terrible. How he had found grace in the eyes
of the minister, he did not know; but without doubt M. de Cavois
would have revealed this to him if the captain of the Guards had
found him at home.
Nothing makes time pass more quickly or more shortens a journey
than a thought which absorbs in itself all the faculties of the
organization of him who thinks. External existence then
resembles a sleep of which this thought is the dream. By its
influence, time has no longer measure, space has no longer
distance. We depart from one place, and arrive at another, that
is all. Of the interval passed, nothing remains in the memory
but a vague mist in which a thousand confused images of trees,
mountains, and landscapes are lost. It was as a prey to this
hallucination that d'Artagnan traveled, at whatever pace his
horse pleased, the six or eight leagues that separated Chantilly
from Crevecoeur, without his being able to remember on his
arrival in the village any of the things he had passed or met
with on the road.
There only his memory returned to him. He shook his head,
perceived the cabaret at which he had left Aramis, and putting
his horse to the trot, he shortly pulled up at the door.
This time it was not a host but a hostess who received him.
d'Artagnan was a physiognomist. His eye took in at a glance the
plump, cheerful countenance of the mistress of the place, and he
at once perceived there was no occasion for dissembling with her,
or of fearing anything from one blessed with such a joyous
"My good dame," asked d'Artagnan, "can you tell me what has
become of one of my friends, whom we were obliged to leave here
about a dozen days ago?"
"A handsome young man, three- or four-and-twenty years old, mild,
amiable, and well made?"
"That is he--wounded in the shoulder."
"Just so. Well, monsieur, he is still here."
"Ah, PARDIEU! My dear dame," said d'Artagnan, springing from his
horse, and throwing the bridle to Planchet, "you restore me to
life; where is this dear Aramis? Let me embrace him, I am in a
hurry to see him again."
"Pardon, monsieur, but I doubt whether he can see you at this
"Why so? Has he a lady with him?"
"Jesus! What do you mean by that? Poor lad! No, monsieur, he
has not a lady with him."
"With whom is he, then?"
"With the curate of Montdidier and the superior of the Jesuits of
"Good heavens!" cried d'Artagnan, "is the poor fellow worse,
"No, monsieur, quite the contrary; but after his illness grace
touched him, and he determined to take orders."
"That's it!" said d'Artagnan, "I had forgotten that he was only a
Musketeer for a time."
"Monsieur still insists upon seeing him?"
"More than ever."
"Well, monsieur has only to take the right-hand staircase in the
courtyard, and knock at Number Five on the second floor."
D'Artagnan walked quickly in the direction indicated, and found
one of those exterior staircases that are still to be seen in the
yards of our old-fashioned taverns. But there was no getting at
the place of sojourn of the future abbe; the defiles of the
chamber of Aramis were as well guarded as the gardens of Armida.
Bazin was stationed in the corridor, and barred his passage with
the more intrepidity that, after many years of trial, Bazin found
himself near a result of which he had ever been ambitious.
In fact, the dream of poor Bazin had always been to serve a
churchman; and he awaited with impatience the moment, always in
the future, when Aramis would throw aside the uniform and assume
the cassock. The daily-renewed promise of the young man that the
moment would not long be delayed, had alone kept him in the
service of a Musketeer--a service in which, he said, his soul was
in constant jeopardy.
Bazin was then at the height of joy. In all probability, this
time his master would not retract. The union of physical pain
with moral uneasiness had produced the effect so long desired.
Aramis, suffering at once in body and mind, had at length fixed
his eyes and his thoughts upon religion, and he had considered as
a warning from heaven the double accident which had happened to
him; that is to say, the sudden disappearance of his mistress and
the wound in his shoulder.
It may be easily understood that in the present disposition of
his master nothing could be more disagreeable to Bazin than the
arrival of d'Artagnan, which might cast his master back again
into that vortex of mundane affairs which had so long carried him
away. He resolved, then, to defend the door bravely; and as,
betrayed by the mistress of the inn, he could not say that Aramis
was absent, he endeavored to prove to the newcomer that it would
be the height of indiscretion to disturb his master in his pious
conference, which had commenced with the morning and would not,
as Bazin said, terminate before night.
But d'Artagnan took very little heed of the eloquent discourse of
M. Bazin; and as he had no desire to support a polemic discussion
with his friend's valet, he simply moved him out of the way with
one hand, and with the other turned the handle of the door of
Number Five. The door opened, and d'Artagnan went into the
Aramis, in a black gown, his head enveloped in a sort of round
flat cap, not much unlike a CALOTTE, was seated before an oblong
table, covered with rolls of paper and enormous volumes in folio.
At his right hand was placed the superior of the Jesuits, and on
his left the curate of Montdidier. The curtains were half drawn,
and only admitted the mysterious light calculated for beatific
reveries. All the mundane objects that generally strike the eye
on entering the room of a young man, particularly when that young
man is a Musketeer, had disappeared as if by enchantment; and for
fear, no doubt, that the sight of them might bring his master
back to ideas of this world, Bazin had laid his hands upon sword,
pistols, plumed hat, and embroideries and laces of all kinds and
sorts. In their stead d'Artagnan thought he perceived in an
obscure corner a discipline cord suspended from a nail in the
At the noise made by d'Artagnan in entering, Aramis lifted up his
head, and beheld his friend; but to the great astonishment of the
young man, the sight of him did not produce much effect upon the
Musketeer, so completely was his mind detached from the things of
"Good day, dear d'Artagnan," said Aramis; "believe me, I am glad
to see you."
"So am I delighted to see you," said d'Artagnan, "although I am
not yet sure that it is Aramis I am speaking to."
"To himself, my friend, to himself! But what makes you doubt
"I was afraid I had made a mistake in the chamber, and that I had
found my way into the apartment of some churchman. Then another
error seized me on seeing you in company with these gentlemen--I
was afraid you were dangerously ill."
The two men in black, who guessed d'Artagnan's meaning, darted at
him a glance which might have been thought threatening; but
d'Artagnan took no heed of it.
"I disturb you, perhaps, my dear Aramis," continued d'Artagnan,
"for by what I see, I am led to believe that you are confessing
to these gentlemen."
Aramis colored imperceptibly. "You disturb me? Oh, quite the
contrary, dear friend, I swear; and as a proof of what I say,
permit me to declare I am rejoiced to see you safe and sound."
"Ah, he'll come round," thought d'Artagnan; "that's not bad!"
"This gentleman, who is my friend, has just escaped from a
serious danger," continued Aramis, with unction, pointing to
d'Artagnan with his hand, and addressing the two ecclesiastics.
"Praise God, monsieur," replied they, bowing together.
"I have not failed to do so, your Reverences," replied the young
man, returning their salutation.
"You arrive in good time, dear d'Artagnan," said Aramis, "and by
taking part in our discussion may assist us with your
intelligence. Monsieur the Principal of Amiens, Monsieur the
Curate of Montdidier, and I are arguing certain theological
questions in which we have been much interested; I shall be
delighted to have your opinion."
"The opinion of a swordsman can have very little weight," replied
d'Artagnan, who began to be uneasy at the turn things were
taking, "and you had better be satisfied, believe me, with the
knowledge of these gentlemen."
The two men in black bowed in their turn.
"On the contrary," replied Aramis, "your opinion will be very
valuable. The question is this: Monsieur the Principal thinks
that my thesis ought to be dogmatic and didactic."
"Your thesis! Are you then making a thesis?"
"Without doubt," replied the Jesuit. "In the examination which
precedes ordination, a thesis is always a requisite."
"Ordination!" cried d'Artagnan, who could not believe what the
hostess and Bazin had successively told him; and he gazed, half
stupefied, upon the three persons before him.
"Now," continued Aramis, taking the same graceful position in his
easy chair that he would have assumed in bed, and complacently
examining his hand, which was as white and plump as that of a
woman, and which he held in the air to cause the blood to
descend, "now, as you have heard, d'Artagnan, Monsieur the
Principal is desirous that my thesis should be dogmatic, while I,
for my part, would rather it should be ideal. This is the reason
why Monsieur the Principal has proposed to me the following
subject, which has not yet been treated upon, and in which I
perceive there is matter for magnificent elaboration-'UTRAQUE
MANUS IN BENEDICENDO CLERICIS INFERIORIBUS NECESSARIA EST.'"
D'Artagnan, whose erudition we are well acquainted with, evinced
no more interest on hearing this quotation than he had at that of
M. de Treville in allusion to the gifts he pretended that
d'Artagnan had received from the Duke of Buckingham.
"Which means," resumed Aramis, that he might perfectly
understand, "'The two hands are indispensable for priests of the
inferior orders, when they bestow the benediction.'"
"An admirable subject!" cried the Jesuit.
"Admirable and dogmatic!" repeated the curate, who, about as
strong as d'Artagnan with respect to Latin, carefully watched the
Jesuit in order to keep step with him, and repeated his words
like an echo.
As to d'Artagnan, he remained perfectly insensible to the
enthusiasm of the two men in black.
"Yes, admirable! PRORSUS ADMIRABILE!" continued Aramis; "but
which requires a profound study of both the Scriptures and the
Fathers. Now, I have confessed to these learned ecclesiastics,
and that in all humility, that the duties of mounting guard and
the service of the king have caused me to neglect study a little.
I should find myself, therefore, more at my ease, FACILUS NATANS,
in a subject of my own choice, which would be to these hard
theological questions what morals are to metaphysics in
D'Artagnan began to be tired, and so did the curate.
"See what an exordium!" cried the Jesuit.
"Exordium," repeated the curate, for the sake of saying
something. "QUEMADMODUM INTER COELORUM IMMENSITATEM."
Aramis cast a glance upon d'Artagnan to see what effect all this
produced, and found his friend gaping enough to split his jaws.
"Let us speak French, my father," said he to the Jesuit;
"Monsieur d'Artagnan will enjoy our conversation better."
"Yes," replied d'Artagnan; "I am fatigued with reading, and all
this Latin confuses me."
"Certainly," replied the Jesuit, a little put out, while the
curate, greatly delighted, turned upon d'Artagnan a look full of
gratitude. "Well, let us see what is to be derived from this
gloss. Moses, the servant of God-he was but a servant, please to
understand-Moses blessed with the hands; he held out both his
arms while the Hebrews beat their enemies, and then he blessed
them with his two hands. Besides, what does the Gospel say?
IMPONITE MANUS, and not MANUM-place the HANDS, not the HAND."
"Place the HANDS," repeated the curate, with a gesture.
"St. Peter, on the contrary, of whom the Popes are the
successors," continued the Jesuit; "PORRIGE DIGITOS-present the
fingers. Are you there, now?"
"CERTES," replied Aramis, in a pleased tone, "but the thing is
"The FINGERS," resumed the Jesuit, "St. Peter blessed with the
FINGERS. The Pope, therefore blesses with the fingers. And with
how many fingers does he bless? With THREE fingers, to be sure-
one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Holy Ghost."
All crossed themselves. D'Artagnan thought it was proper to
follow this example.
"The Pope is the successor of St. Peter, and represents the three
divine powers; the rest-ORDINES INFERIORES-of the ecclesiastical
hierarchy bless in the name of the holy archangels and angels.
The most humble clerks such as our deacons and sacristans, bless
with holy water sprinklers, which resemble an infinite number of
blessing fingers. There is the subject simplified. ARGUMENTUM
OMNI DENUDATUM ORNAMENTO. I could make of that subject two
volumes the size of this," continued the Jesuit; and in his
enthusiasm he struck a St. Chrysostom in folio, which made the
table bend beneath its weight.
"CERTES," said Aramis, "I do justice to the beauties of this
thesis; but at the same time I perceive it would be overwhelming
for me. I had chosen this text-tell me, dear d'Artagnan, if it
is not to your taste-'NON INUTILE EST DESIDERIUM IN OBLATIONE';
that is, 'A little regret is not unsuitable in an offering to the
"Stop there!" cried the Jesuit, "for that thesis touches closely
upon heresy. There is a proposition almost like it in the
AUGUSTINUS of the heresiarch Jansenius, whose book will sooner or
later be burned by the hands of the executioner. Take care, my
young friend. You are inclining toward false doctrines, my young
friend; you will be lost."
"You will be lost," said the curate, shaking his head
"You approach that famous point of free will which is a mortal
rock. You face the insinuations of the Pelagians and the semi-
"But, my Reverend-" replied Aramis, a little amazed by the shower
of arguments that poured upon his head.
"How will you prove," continued the Jesuit, without allowing him
time to speak, "that we ought to regret the world when we offer
ourselves to God? Listen to this dilemma: God is God, and the
world is the devil. To regret the world is to regret the devil;
that is my conclusion."
"And that is mine also," said the curate.
"But, for heaven's sake-" resumed Aramis.
"DESIDERAS DIABOLUM, unhappy man!" cried the Jesuit.
"He regrets the devil! Ah, my young friend," added the curate,
groaning, "do not regret the devil, I implore you!"
D'Artagnan felt himself bewildered. It seemed to him as though
he were in a madhouse, and was becoming as mad as those he saw.
He was, however, forced to hold his tongue from not comprehending
half the language they employed.
"But listen to me, then," resumed Aramis with politeness mingled
with a little impatience. "I do not say I regret; no, I will
never pronounce that sentence, which would not be orthodox."
The Jesuit raised his hands toward heaven, and the curate did the
"No; but pray grant me that it is acting with an ill grace to
offer to the Lord only that with which we are perfectly
disgusted! Don't you think so, d'Artagnan?"
"I think so, indeed," cried he.
The Jesuit and the curate quite started from their chairs.
"This is the point of departure; it is a syllogism. The world is
not wanting in attractions. I quit the world; then I make a
sacrifice. Now, the Scripture says positively, 'Make a sacrifice
unto the Lord.'"
"That is true," said his antagonists.
"And then," said Aramis, pinching his ear to make it red, as he
rubbed his hands to make them white, "and then I made a certain
RONDEAU upon it last year, which I showed to Monsieur Voiture,
and that great man paid me a thousand compliments."
"A RONDEAU!" said the Jesuit, disdainfully.
"A RONDEAU!" said the curate, mechanically.
"Repeat it! Repeat it!" cried d'Artagnan; "it will make a little
"Not so, for it is religious," replied Aramis; "it is theology in
"The devil!" said d'Artagnan.
"Here it is," said Aramis, with a little look of diffidence,
which, however, was not exempt from a shade of hypocrisy:
"Vous qui pleurez un passe plein de charmes,
Et qui trainez des jours infortunes,
Tous vos malheurs se verront termines,
Quand a Dieu seul vous offrirez vos larmes,
Vous qui pleurez!"
"You who weep for pleasures fled,
While dragging on a life of care,
All your woes will melt in air,
If to God your tears are shed,
You who weep!"
d'Artagnan and the curate appeared pleased. The Jesuit persisted
in his opinion. "Beware of a profane taste in your theological
style. What says Augustine on this subject: "'SEVERUS SIT
"Yes, let the sermon be clear," said the curate.
"Now," hastily interrupted the Jesuit, on seeing that his acolyte
was going astray, "now your thesis would please the ladies; it
would have the success of one of Monsieur Patru's pleadings."
"Please God!" cried Aramis, transported.
"There it is," cried the Jesuit; "the world still speaks within
you in a loud voice, ALTISIMMA VOCE. You follow the world, my
young friend, and I tremble lest grace prove not efficacious."
"Be satisfied, my reverend father, I can answer for myself."
"I know myself, Father; my resolution is irrevocable."
"Then you persist in continuing that thesis?"
"I feel myself called upon to treat that, and no other. I will
see about the continuation of it, and tomorrow I hope you will be
satisfied with the corrections I shall have made in consequence
of your advice."
"Work slowly," said the curate; "we leave you in an excellent
tone of mind."
"Yes, the ground is all sown," said the Jesuit, "and we have not
to fear that one portion of the seed may have fallen upon stone,
another upon the highway, or that the birds of heaven have eaten
the rest, AVES COELI COMEDERUNT ILLAM."
"Plague stifle you and your Latin!" said d'Artagnan, who began to
feel all his patience exhausted.
"Farewell, my son," said the curate, "till tomorrow."
"Till tomorrow, rash youth," said the Jesuit. "You promise to
become one of the lights of the Church. Heaven grant that this
light prove not a devouring fire!"
D'Artagnan, who for an hour past had been gnawing his nails with
impatience, was beginning to attack the quick.
The two men in black rose, bowed to Aramis and d'Artagnan, and
advanced toward the door. Bazin, who had been standing listening
to all this controversy with a pious jubilation, sprang toward
them, took the breviary of the curate and the missal of the
Jesuit, and walked respectfully before them to clear their way.
Aramis conducted them to the foot of the stairs, and then
immediately came up again to d'Artagnan, whose senses were still
in a state of confusion.
When left alone, the two friends at first kept an embarrassed
silence. It however became necessary for one of them to break it
first, and as d'Artagnan appeared determined to leave that honor
to his companion, Aramis said, "you see that I am returned to my
"Yes, efficacious grace has touched you, as that gentleman said
"Oh, these plans of retreat have been formed for a long time.
You have often heard me speak of them, have you not, my friend?"
"Yes; but I confess I always thought you jested."
"With such things! Oh, d'Artagnan!"
"The devil! Why, people jest with death."
"And people are wrong, d'Artagnan; for death is the door which
leads to perdition or to salvation."
"Granted; but if you please, let us not theologize, Aramis. You
must have had enough for today. As for me, I have almost
forgotten the little Latin I have ever known. Then I confess to
you that I have eaten nothing since ten o'clock this morning, and
I am devilish hungry."
"We will dine directly, my friend; only you must please to
remember that this is Friday. Now, on such a day I can neither
eat flesh nor see it eaten. If you can be satisfied with my
dinner-it consists of cooked tetragones and fruits."
"What do you mean by tetragones?" asked d'Artagnan, uneasily.
"I mean spinach," replied Aramis; "but on your account I will add
some eggs, and that is a serious infraction of the rule-for eggs
are meat, since they engender chickens."
"This feast is not very succulent; but never mind, I will put up
with it for the sake of remaining with you."
"I am grateful to you for the sacrifice," said Aramis; "but if
your body be not greatly benefited by it, be assured your soul
"And so, Aramis, you are decidedly going into the Church? What
will our two friends say? What will Monsieur de Treville say?
They will treat you as a deserter, I warn you."
"I do not enter the Church; I re-enter it. I deserted the Church
for the world, for you know that I forced myself when I became a
"I? I know nothing about it."
"You don't know I quit the seminary?"
"Not at all."
"This is my story, then. Besides, the Scriptures say, 'Confess
yourselves to one another,' and I confess to you, d'Artagnan."
"And I give you absolution beforehand. You see I am a good sort
of a man."
"Do not jest about holy things, my friend."
"Go on, then, I listen."
"I had been at the seminary from nine years old; in three days I
should have been twenty. I was about to become an abbe, and all
was arranged. One evening I went, according to custom, to a
house which I frequented with much pleasure: when one is young,
what can be expected?--one is weak. An officer who saw me, with
a jealous eye, reading the LIVES OF THE SAINTS to the mistress of
the house, entered suddenly and without being announced. That
evening I had translated an episode of Judith, and had just
communicated my verses to the lady, who gave me all sorts of
compliments, and leaning on my shoulder, was reading them a
second time with me. Her pose, which I must admit was rather
free, wounded this officer. He said nothing; but when I went out
he followed, and quickly came up with me. 'Monsieur the Abbe,'
said he, 'do you like blows with a cane?' 'I cannot say,
monsieur,' answered I; 'no one has ever dared to give me any.'
'Well, listen to me, then, Monsieur the Abbe! If you venture
again into the house in which I have met you this evening, I will
dare it myself.' I really think I must have been frightened. I
became very pale; I felt my legs fail me; I sought for a reply,
but could find none-I was silent. The officer waited for his
reply, and seeing it so long coming, he burst into a laugh,
turned upon his heel, and re-entered the house. I returned to
"I am a gentleman born, and my blood is warm, as you may have
remarked, my dear d'Artagnan. The insult was terrible, and
although unknown to the rest of the world, I felt it live and
fester at the bottom of my heart. I informed my superiors that I
did not feel myself sufficiently prepared for ordination, and at
my request the ceremony was postponed for a year. I sought out
the best fencing master in Paris, I made an agreement with him to
take a lesson every day, and every day for a year I took that
lesson. Then, on the anniversary of the day on which I had been
insulted, I hung my cassock on a peg, assumed the costume of a
cavalier, and went to a ball given by a lady friend of mine and
to which I knew my man was invited. It was in the Rue des
France-Bourgeois, close to La Force. As I expected, my officer
was there. I went up to him as he was singing a love ditty and
looking tenderly at a lady, and interrupted him exactly in the
middle of the second couplet. 'Monsieur,' said I, 'does it still
displease you that I should frequent a certain house of La Rue
Payenne? And would you still cane me if I took it into my head
to disobey you? The officer looked at me with astonishment, and
then said, 'What is your business with me, monsieur? I do not
know you.' 'I am,' said I, 'the little abbe who reads LIVES OF
THE SAINTS, and translates Judith into verse.' 'Ah, ah! I
recollect now,' said the officer, in a jeering tone; 'well, what
do you want with me?' 'I want you to spare time to take a walk
with me.' 'Tomorrow morning, if you like, with the greatest
pleasure.' 'No, not tomorrow morning, if you please, but
immediately.' 'If you absolutely insist.' 'I do insist upon
it.' 'Come, then. Ladies,' said the officer, 'do not disturb
yourselves; allow me time just to kill this gentleman, and I will
return and finish the last couplet.'
"We went out. I took him to the Rue Payenne, to exactly the same
spot where, a year before, at the very same hour, he had paid me
the compliment I have related to you. It was a superb moonlight
night. We immediately drew, and at the first pass I laid him
"The devil!" cried d'Artagnan.
"Now," continued Aramis, "as the ladies did not see the singer
come back, and as he was found in the Rue Payenne with a great
sword wound through his body, it was supposed that I had
accommodated him thus; and the matter created some scandal which
obliged me to renounce the cassock for a time. Athos, whose
acquaintance I made about that period, and Porthos, who had in
addition to my lessons taught me some effective tricks of fence,
prevailed upon me to solicit the uniform of a Musketeer. The
king entertained great regard for my father, who had fallen at
the siege of Arras, and the uniform was granted. You may understand
that the moment has come for me to re-enter the bosom of the
"And why today, rather than yesterday or tomorrow? What has
happened to you today, to raise all these melancholy ideas?"
"This wound, my dear d'Artagnan, has been a warning to me from
"This wound? Bah, it is now nearly healed, and I am sure it is
not that which gives you the most pain."
"What, then?" said Aramis, blushing.
"You have one at heart, Aramis, one deeper and more painful--a
wound made by a woman."
The eye of Aramis kindled in spite of himself.
"Ah," said he, dissembling his emotion under a feigned
carelessness, "do not talk of such things, and suffer love pains?
VANITAS VANITATUM! According to your idea, then, my brain is
turned. And for whom-for some GRISETTE, some chambermaid with
whom I have trifled in some garrison? Fie!"
"Pardon, my dear Aramis, but I thought you carried your eyes
"Higher? And who am I, to nourish such ambition? A poor
Musketeer, a beggar, an unknown-who hates slavery, and finds
himself ill-placed in the world."
"Aramis, Aramis!" cried d'Artagnan, looking at his friend with an
air of doubt.
"Dust I am, and to dust I return. Life is full of humiliations
and sorrows," continued he, becoming still more melancholy; "all
the ties which attach him to life break in the hand of man,
particularly the golden ties. Oh, my dear d'Artagnan," resumed
Aramis, giving to his voice a slight tone of bitterness, "trust
me! Conceal your wounds when you have any; silence is the last
joy of the unhappy. Beware of giving anyone the clue to your
griefs; the curious suck our tears as flies suck the blood of a
"Alas, my dear Aramis," said d'Artagnan, in his turn heaving a
profound sigh, "that is my story you are relating!"
"Yes; a woman whom I love, whom I adore, has just been torn from
me by force. I do not know where she is or whither they have
conducted her. She is perhaps a prisoner; she is perhaps dead!"
"Yes, but you have at least this consolation, that you can say to
yourself she has not quit you voluntarily, that if you learn no
news of her, it is because all communication with you in
interdicted; while I--"
"Nothing," replied Aramis, "nothing."
"So you renounce the world, then, forever; that is a settled
thing--a resolution registered!"
"Forever! You are my friend today; tomorrow you will be no more
to me than a shadow, or rather, even, you will no longer exist.
As for the world, it is a sepulcher and nothing else."
"The devil! All this is very sad which you tell me."
"What will you? My vocation commands me; it carries me away."
D'Artagnan smiled, but made no answer.
Aramis continued, "And yet, while I do belong to the earth, I
wish to speak of you--of our friends."
"And on my part," said d'Artagnan, "I wished to speak of you, but
I find you so completely detached from everything! To love you
cry, 'Fie! Friends are shadows! The world is a sepulcher!'"
"Alas, you will find it so yourself," said Aramis, with a sigh.
"Well, then, let us say no more about it," said d'Artagnan; "and
let us burn this letter, which, no doubt, announces to you some
fresh infidelity of your GRISETTE or your chambermaid."
"What letter?" cried Aramis, eagerly.
"A letter which was sent to your abode in your absence, and which
was given to me for you."
"But from whom is that letter?"
"Oh, from some heartbroken waiting woman, some desponding
GRISETTE; from Madame de Chevreuse's chambermaid, perhaps, who
was obliged to return to Tours with her mistress, and who, in
order to appear smart and attractive, stole some perfumed paper,
and sealed her letter with a duchess's coronet."
"What do you say?"
"Hold! I must have lost it," said the young man maliciously,
pretending to search for it. "But fortunately the world is a
sepulcher; the men, and consequently the women, are but shadows,
and love is a sentiment to which you cry, 'Fie! Fie!'"
"d'Artagnan, d'Artagnan," cried Aramis, "you are killing me!"
"Well, here it is at last!" said d'Artagnan, as he drew the
letter from his pocket.
Aramis made a bound, seized the letter, read it, or rather
devoured it, his countenance radiant.
"This same waiting maid seems to have an agreeable style," said
the messenger, carelessly.
"Thanks, d'Artagnan, thanks!" cried Aramis, almost in a state of
delirium. "She was forced to return to Tours; she is not
faithless; she still loves me! Come, my friend, come, let me
embrace you. Happiness almost stifles me!"
The two friends began to dance around the venerable St.
Chrysostom, kicking about famously the sheets of the thesis,
which had fallen on the floor.
At that moment Bazin entered with the spinach and the omelet.
"Be off, you wretch!" cried Aramis, throwing his skullcap in his
face. "Return whence you came; take back those horrible
vegetables, and that poor kickshaw! Order a larded hare, a fat
capon, mutton leg dressed with garlic, and four bottles of old
Bazin, who looked at his master, without comprehending the cause
of this change, in a melancholy manner, allowed the omelet to
slip into the spinach, and the spinach onto the floor.
"Now this is the moment to consecrate your existence to the King
of kings," said d'Artagnan, "if you persist in offering him a
civility. NON INUTILE DESIDERIUM OBLATIONE."
"Go to the devil with your Latin. Let us drink, my dear
d'Artagnan, MORBLEU! Let us drink while the wine is fresh! Let
us drink heartily, and while we do so, tell me a little of what
is going on in the world yonder."